Archives for March 2011

I Think We’ve got a Winner!

After e-mailing two more lab breeders and briefly looking at the flat-coated retriever as a possible guide dog option, I think we’ve settled on Red Labrador Retrievers. It seems as though most breeders are having litters arrive this spring or are taking a year off breeding completely, so we decided to go with RLR. They have two litters coming up between now and October and they are willing to work with us in finding the perfect guide dog candidate.

Both Huib and I really liked the flat-coated retriever and thought this breed would offer a new challenge, but after learning some more about them from Katrin over at By My Side we went back to the Labrador Retriever. Flat-coated retrievers are a wonderful breed, full of eternal youth and intelligence, but rarely will you ever find one who makes it past eight years of age because they all end up with cancer. The short lifespan of this breed is the same reason why I’m less than thrilled about Huib wanting to someday get a Bernese Mountain Dog. I just couldn’t imagine having to say good-bye at such a young age. Cessna turned 7 in October and I feel as though I have just started to scratch the surface of learning who she really is.

RLR will have a litter born in April and then another born in August, so we will soon meet our new family member and future guide dog hopeful. I didn’t really want to start the process of raising and training Cessna’s successor before the fall, but Huib and I think it’s best to have the option of a puppy from two rather than just one litter. I’ve asked for a small female who is energetic and willing to learn, but not necessarily one who’s eager to please. RLr has Anne MacDonald, an Animal Behaviour
Specialist come and assess their puppies before placing them with potential families. We’re supposed to get a copy of their aptitude test and the pedigrees of Cheyenne, Lizzy and Boomer in the mail, so I’ll do an update when they arrive.

I’m really not sure how to feel about these developments because things just seem to be moving so quickly. I feel guilty for looking forward to the new addition and the challenge of training Cessna’s successor. I worry that she’ll feel left out and kicked to the curb. I know I felt this way when Phoenix retired and I know he easily settled into his new position, but I still worry and feel terrible. I sometimes wonder if it would be better to wait until Cessna is ready to retire and then return to the LFC, but then I also think she could teach my new guide so many things and that I’d really like to see if I have the ability to train my own dog. I know these are probably emotions everyone goes through when deciding whether to retire their current guide and/or whether to start looking for a successor, but it still doesn’t make things any easier…

Where Did our Names Come From?

Our friends over at A Glacial Pace
inspired me to write an entry that explains where all of us – yes, me too – got our names.

When my mom was pregnant with me she had decided that my name would be Ashley if I was a girl or Jay if I was a boy. Well the day before the doctors decided I was coming out early, her hospital roommate gave birth to a boy and named him Ashley. I was born via c-section the following morning during the first snowstorm of 1979 and was rushed off to Toronto’s Sick Children’s Hospital for treatment. Just before the neonatal team took me away, my mom was asked what she wanted to name me and without too much thought she decided on Brooke, a character in a soap opera she enjoyed watching.

I’ll do Phoenix and Cessna together since they both came from the LFC and have a similar naming story. As Jess mentioned in her post
the Lions Foundation of Canada and many other guide dog programs name their dogs according to a letter of the alphabet. Phoenix is from the 1996 “P” litter and Cessna is from the 2003 “C” litter. I don’t know much about Phoenix’s siblings, but do know he had a brother named Piper who began training with him, but was eventually disqualified for being over active. Cessna on the other hand had 8 other siblings and actually graduated with three of them; china, Cole and Cicely. Another brother and sister, Chauncy and Cricket, graduated just a week before her in the Special Skills and Hearing Ear programs. The last three, Cheney, Cowan and Cooper were disqualified for unknown reasons. Even though Phoenix and Cessna were both named for the letter their births came to in their respective year, they both fit their names perfectly. Phoenix has always lived his life the way he chooses and seems to be the dog who will live forever. Cessna on the other hand is small and speedy like the airplane she was named after. Looking at both of them and knowing their personalities I don’t think I could think of more suitable names. Similar to other programs, the LFC does not reuse names (unless they are sponsored ones) until the dog is retired from duty or breeding. Since Phoenix’s retirement his name has been available for use, but so far I am happy to report that no other Phoenix has been able to fill his shoes.

We got Aspen when Phoenix was six and a half years old. He had begun to slow down and seemed disinterested in working, so a trainer suggested we get him a friend. When trying to decide on a name for our new golden princess we tossed around a few, options but could only really agree upon Autumn. Up until the day before I went to see her for the first time we had settled on this name, but during a late night shopping excursion overheard two teenagers discussing the names one of them had chosen for her unborn baby – Aspen. Both of us thought this was a pretty neat name and began to do a little research. The first thing we learned is that Aspen is the name of a tree commonly found in Colorado whose leaves turns a golden colour before they drop – suiting for a golden retriever right? Then we learned that Aspen is also the name of a city in Colorado where people go to ski. This information helped to make our decision because not only is Aspen a city in the US, but Phoenix (our only other dog at the time) is also the name of an american city and she was going to be his new best friend.

Even though I don’t mention them too much on the blog, we share our home with not only four dogs, but two cats as well; Logan and Laya. We adopted the girls from the Guelph Humane Society at the age of 10 weeks. Logan is a short haired female calico and Laya is a small, medium haired maine coon cross. Logan was named after a male black lab who I had met during my training with Gryphon. I had really wanted to be matched with Logan, but this did not happen and his name forever stuck in my mind as one I would someday name a pet of my own. We got Laya about two months after getting Logan and wanted to name her something girly because she was petite and so fluffy. Well, an older Star Wars movie was playing in the background while we worked on homework the night before we picked her up and we decided on the name Laya because of the Princess.

Logan sitting up tall and proud.

Laya sitting on the windowsill of our first apartment together, peaking out from behind the curtains.

Finally, there’s canyon. When we originally got him his name was Sparky – a terrible name!! Luckily he had no name recognition though, so changing it to a more suitable one was easy. When we had given Reece back and thought we were getting a new puppy to raise we had begun thinking of different names and were told that ADS had started using the alphabet to keep track of which puppies were donated when so our next puppy would be a “C”. We had thought of names like cobalt, Cloud, Charm and Coda, but just before we got the dreaded e-mail saying we were no longer needed, we thought of Canyon. This name stuck with us and after some research became our new golden boy’s name. canyon is the last name of one of Huib’s favourite country singers (George Canyon) and is also the name of a city in Texas. I know it’s silly, but we seem to enjoy naming our dogs for cities in the US because of our faithful, old yellow boy!!

So, there you have it! The naming stories behind all of the ruled by paws gang. What’s your story?

A Mishmash Of news

I haven’t really been posting any updates from our gang in a bit, so thought I’d better do one now.

Ever since we learned that Cessna is developing cataracts we’ve been discussing the option of raising and training her successor a little more. I am looking for a small yellow or black lab female who is energetic and willing to learn, but not necessarily please. So far we’ve been looking through the Labrador Owners Club website We prefer the more American style lab to the traditional English lines, so I’ve been getting Huib to look at the breeding stocks and letting me know his thoughts.

We’ve contacted:
Bluenorth Labradors
Cooperslane Kennel
Ironridge Labradors
MooseLake Labrador Retrievers
Pinebank Labrador Retrievers
Red Labrador Retrievers

Four of the six have already responded to our inquiry and I am liking Red Labrador Retrievers the most because not only is their stock the less common fox red colour, but they also do an aptitude test with their puppies to determine suitability for working, showing and/or companionship. I have asked them to send me a copy of their test and the pedigrees of their stock in an effort to learn even more. The other three who responded were not only asking about $200 to $500 more for their puppies, but their guarantees are only valid if we feed the puppy what they recommend. I am not in a huge rush to make a decision, so will continue sending out e-mails, because I don’t want to start the process until the fall or early winter when Cessna turns 8.

On another note, I have been in contact with a woman who has recently started an obedience/agility training program in Engelhart, which is about a 20 minute drive from our house. She has competed in agility for years with her boarder collies in the UK and has been competing in Canada for about three years now. Currently, she doesn’t have a building of her own, so she is renting a room in the fire hall for 3 hours, one day a week. Huib works a semi-rotating shift at the hospital so this sort of arrangement does not really work for us, but she has agreed to do a half hour private session after her classes every Tuesday. In the summer she will be setting up an agility course (when the snow leaves) so at that time I’m sure her availability will be a little more frequent. For now though, I’m going to meet with her every other Tuesday to work on some obedience with Canyon and then when the agility lessons begin, Cessna will join us. Huib and I are going to meet up with her for coffee on Thursday to learn a bit about her methods, but so far from reading through her website I’ve learned she uses clicker training. I’ll keep you all posted on how things go.

The rest of the news I have to share isn’t as interesting or exciting, but it’s got a cuteness factor. On Tuesday we drove down to London with the dogs so I could go for my lumbar puncture on Tuesday morning. We stayed with the same friends as our last visit and again the dogs had a good time. When we arrived it was pretty late, but we chatted for a bit before heading to bed and Jen told me the kids (she watches about 4-7 kids during the week) had gotten Phoenix a present. I wasn’t sure what to think, but when she came out of the kitchen she was carrying a little plastic teacup, saucer and spoon!! I guess she had taken a few of the kids shopping after letting them know Phoenix was coming to visit, so they asked if they could get him a present and showed her this little tea set – they’re so cute!! The following day while Huib, Cessna and I were away, Phoenix had his tea party and they even got pictures this time!

Here’s another cute little picture Jen got. She went into the play room to check on everyone and found Aspen curled up on top of a blanket with a teddy – I guess the kids thought she needed a nap…

On Thursday morning before we left I had to go see my doctor for the test results and the dogs again stayed with Jen. This time instead of cute pictures, I came hback to hear about how good my dogs had behaved. I guess she had gotten a new dishwasher delivered and while the repairman was going to grab some of his tools in the hallway by the elevator he left the door wide open and Jen just told the goldens to stay. When the guy returned he was amazed to see them still standing where he had last seen them. Then, just before we got back, she saw the goldens watching the crack under the door and noticed them following a shadow back and forth, so thought she’d open the door to let them see what was out there. Before opening the door she asked them to sit and stay. The landlord continued vacuuming for a bit and then stopped and commented on how well-behaved they were  I was so proud to hear this and was happy that they had listened to someone else giving them a command. Then to make our trip even cooler, before leaving for home, Jen decided to bring out one of her five bunnies for the dogs to check out. Cessna had been so interested in them the entire time, so my friend thought it was time to let them investigate. I wasn’t so sure this was a good idea, but am happy to report that Rue sustained no injuries or life-long trauma  Phoenix and Cessna followed her from room to room, while the goldens sniffed her and then lost interest. I think it would be really cool to have a bunny of our own, but am having trouble convincing Huib to say yes.

As you can see we’ve been pretty busy, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to find a little more time to update everyone on our adventures.

2011 Winter Fun!!

We finally found our camera and got a chance to load the pictures onto my laptop so here they are!

My friend’s 12 year old son came to visit for a couple weeks at Christmas and enjoyed using Aspen as his pillow for sleeping.

Caleb thought Canyon might want to share his crate, but he was wrong lol!

Here’s a couple pictures from my two night stay at the timmins & District Hospital. I was lucky to have my sister and Huib stay with me, so Cessna didn’t have to leave. she was such a good girl, sleeping on my bed in the Emergency Department the whole time.

Here’s a couple of pictures from our walks down the road near our house that only has someone living at the very end. The trail where these pictures were taken is a snowmobile trail just past the house.

the rest of the pictures are ones taken behind our house as we walk towards the lake which is about a 3-5 minute walk from our back door.

We were beginning to wonder where all the trees were going that had been cut down by beavers. the chunks of wood they leave behind are absolutely huge!

I wonder if they realize it’s the lake they’re standing on…